“Lowered Expectations” was the name of a popular segment on SNL, I believe, during the 90’s. It showed characters of limited appeal hooking up with other characters of even less appeal. At the time, it got a lot of laughs; presumably because the “everyman” caricatures were so sadly unappealing most viewers could shrug it off knowing they were so much ‘better’ than the sweaty, lonely characters on screen.
Fast forward 25 years and we see what America thought was a comedy is actually their real life tragedy. The insertion of television programming, especially the ‘reality TV’ kind, such as “Survivor,” “The Bachelor” and “Jersey Shore,” which sensationalizes people who “win” by back stabbing and threatening one other, use lies and deceit to prevail, and then rewards them with cash at the end is part of the common denominator kind of contagion that has catapulted American culture into the spiteful scab of gluttony it is today. They now idolize the unappealing.
Logically we expect there are, and some will actually know, bright, aware American people who are curious about the world and people in it, who seek knowledge without gain and work for the common good. But where are these Noam Chomskys? After all, they are American too and mostly White. But we have heard nary a peep from these cloistered people in years – not in television certainly.
Instead, shows like “Survivor” are bolstered by false news and “entertainment” shows that celebrate the petty, and truly wish to keep up with the Kardashians, or via shows like “24” and “Homeland,” create a psychosis of suspicion and uncertainty. In this, the greatest country in the world, we are all too familiar with the vicious behaviour of real life political aspirants who have no qualms attacking their opponents with everything but issues. Little wonder then, that a certain proportion of the population not only believe that the world was better 40 or 50 years ago, they actually want to go back there. Sadly, none of their own leaders are willing to tell them that the world where simple, hard-working folk (white and others) can lead a good honest life simply never existed.
I’ll give a few examples. America experienced a great depression, severe drought, Prohibition, organized crime, a Cold War, sold weapons to supposed enemies, used the Bomb against civilians, lost in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and recently saw its “great white hope,” Capitalism by way of Goldman-Sachs and others, act immorally, unethically and illegally against the interests of ordinary people, all in the name of making money. This is the America of the last 100 years. Before that, it was worse. Do they really think the Magnificent Seven actually existed? Even that was stolen from the Japanese!
Now, I get there was a time when most Americans could look at events around the world (insert disaster or type of corruption here) and say, “look at those poor bastards, thank God this country is better than that.” But, sadly the unspoiled country that was raided by the “settlers” has turned out to be very similar to other countries. The discrimination that the Pilgrims ran from, the grinding poverty that the Irish ran from, the devastation that the Italians and Poles ran from, the oppression that so many Europeans ran from has not, it seems, prevented them from turning around and allowing the very same things to happen in their new world. To top it off, they knew damn well that their soldiers, their preachers and their businessmen were busy selling the American dream everywhere they invaded. So, why be surprised that these people now feel that America is their home, and the place where people can succeed by merit? Think about it while I move on.
So, does it really matter if Donald or Hillary won? The fact is America is not that great, nor is it particularly free. In fact, the evidence reveals that adults, like children, can easily be manipulated by media. Even their dreams are manufactured for them: Should blood diamonds be the symbol of love? Is Gucci really better than an American made hand bag? Apparently. And, is it important to know foreigners made poor and landless by American hegemony get cancer making your cellphone? “Hell no! The Walking Dead’s on!”
In truth, the new America, where more people die of obesity than any ISIS group could hope for, and more people are on drugs than any country in the world, is already sick, and our shock at the calibre of presidential candidates in 2016 with its mantra of “Making America great again” is way too late to do any good. The expectations were lowered a long time ago and they have only themselves to blame.
The Americans, the friends and family of many different cultural backgrounds I have known for the last 30 years, are warm and friendly people. In fact, I much prefer their easy ways to the polite aloofness I sometimes meet in Canada, but sadly I fear that those Americans have been superseded by the kind of people who produce and believe in the execrable ideas of espionage, sleeper cells and a threat in every neighbour's house that can be found in each episode of “The Americans.” And so many of our neighbours have been lured into that sinister world that it will take more than a female Secretary of State or a television star to wake them up.